Don’t Give Up Five Minutes Before The Payoff

I received this story from one of my readers. I think it is a GREAT example of how networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Don’t give up too soon. It  is all about relationship building, and that takes time!

In any endeavor, there is an objective in mind . . . a goal line to cross. When I first joined my networking group, it was to get enough referrals and closed business that I could make more money than the cost of membership. Being an investment advisor, I was made aware that the time horizon for a quality referral was the longest of any profession represented around the tables.

The first time I joined a networking group was in November, 2007, and even though that group eventually dissolved, I was fortunate enough to find a seat in another flourishing group in November of 2009. During the declining period of my first networking group — through its loss of charter, core group restart process and eventual dissolution — I was beginning to despair. I was approaching the two-year mark with no referrals, and my group was washing out from under my feet. My friends and colleagues started asking me, “What are you getting out of it?” Driving to one of the final meetings before my group disbanded, I was contemplating giving it all up. Then I remembered an affirmation from years ago: Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens.

Anything one believes must withstand self-scrutiny, so I really took a hard look at why I kept attending. The answer was simple: I believed it would eventually provide the results I expected. Additionally, there are other intangible benefits that are hard to quantify. My networking group provides a business education that is not taught in schools, and the larger bonus . . . it’s also the practice lab. I believe in systems. If you focus on the right systems, the results will follow. You (Ivan Misner) say networking is about “farming,” not “hunting,” which requires the nurturing of relationships in order for them to yield anything fruitful, much the way a farmer must attend his crops or orchards.

So the payoff? After two years and three months, I received my first referral from one of the relationships I built from my first group. The size of the account was four times what I expected, and since I work on a fee-based schedule instead of commissions, the income stream from this exceeds my yearly dues and renewal fees. One referral has and will pay for my membership in perpetuity.

Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens!

What is a Brand?

I recently ran across a very good definition of what a company “brand” is all about. It was written by Tilka Design. I really loved it, and I share it with you below:

A brand lives in the imagination.
Intuitively, we all know what a brand is. It’s far more than a logo. And it’s much larger than a product, service, idea or institution. A brand finds its home in the minds and hearts of individuals; it’s made up of stories and experiences that, over time, create feelings. When enough people share those feelings, the brand comes to life.

What a great definition! What would you add, if anything, to this description?

The Networking Disconnect

I was at a big networking event with more than 500 people in the UK this summer, and the person who spoke before me asked the audience: “How many of you came here hoping to do some business–maybe make a sale?”  More than half the people in the audience raised their hands. He then asked, “How many of you are here hoping to buy something?”  No one raised a hand–not one single person! This is the networking disconnect.

If you are going to networking events hoping to sell something, you’re dreaming. Don’t confuse direct selling with networking. Effective networking is about developing relationships. I know, I know . . . there’s always someone out there who says, “But, Ivan, I’ve made a sale by attending a networking event!”  OK . . . I’m not saying it doesn’t ever happen–it does.  I’m just saying it happens about as often as a solar eclipse. Face it, even a blind squirrel can find a nut. Any businessperson can stumble on some business at a networking meeting from time to time. However, when you have most of the people at an event trying to sell and virtually no one there to buy, you’re crazy if you think the odds are in your favor to “sell” at a networking event.

So why go?  You go because networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about developing relationships with other business professionals. Sometimes you go to a networking event to increase your visibility, sometimes you go to establish further credibility with people you know, and sometimes you may even go to meet a long-time referral partner and do some business. In any case, the true master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the VCP Process and not about closing deals.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Yeah, But I’m Different

An old friend of mine, Don Osborne, shared with me some material he wrote many years ago about how many of us use the “I’m different” syndrome to simply avoid doing something we don’t want to do. I’ve revised it a bit and am sharing it with you here today.  I hope you find it interesting.

When it comes to ourselves, we’re always the exception.  Everybody else should do what’s been proved to work. Personal development works as soon as we stop treating ourselves as the exception. True, everyone is unique–but not different when it comes to self-development. 

 Perhaps it’s only procrastination that leads us to declare that we’re “different.” Or our “circumstances” prevent us from agreeing to follow proven methods of self improvement. Maybe it’s the fear of success or failure in making changes. There are all kinds of legitimate concerns, but none is an adequate excuse for not engaging in self-development activities. There is no good excuse for not following the basics. 

Everybody who has achieved success has succumbed to the basics. In fact, many success stories talk about fighting the urge to reinvent the wheel and sticking to what’s been proved to work. Why we fight city hall on “I’ll succeed without doing what’s been proved,” I don’t know. But it’s a fight you’re going to have to lose if you want to win the battle for an improved lifestyle.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy or a major event to send you down the road of self-development.  True, most of the success stories we hear about or grab the headlines are like that. You could wait for, or create, a spectacular situation to spur you on. Most stories of success go untold because they weren’t born out of tragedy. Rather, they were born out of frustration, and being sick and tired of being “sick and tired.”

The reality is that most of us are living out our own story in quiet desperation. A story sufficient enough to make you different. The kind of different that qualifies you as unique and, therefore, a candidate for the tried-and-true methods of self-development.

Stop hiding behind the excuse of “I’m different.” Accept what all who have succeeded know: The basics work, no exceptions.

Success Is Not an Entitlement

Yesterday, I received a rather disturbing email message from someone berating me for sharing what he felt were some aspects of my success via my FaceBook Fan page (mostly relating to discussions about my business travel and corporate meetings I did from my lake home over the summer).   I have to say it brought me down a bit so I went to my library and picked up a book I wrote about 7 years ago called Masters of Success.  I read a piece in it that I wrote called “Success is Not an Entitlement” which I hoped would re-focus my mindset after receiving this vitriolic piece of email.

I’d like to share an excerpt from it with you here today in my blog.  I’ve updated some of the material in brackets.  The excerpt at the end about “being lucky” goes out to my email critic.  I hope everyone (including my critic) can see some value in this message.

Everyone wants some degree of success. We might want it in different forms, but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to be successful at something important. This is good. I believe everyone is entitled to pursue success.

But success itself is not an entitlement.

Not long ago I was talking to someone I’ve known for years about my personal success, the growth of my business, and some other personal goals I’ve recently met. He said, “Man, you’re lucky! It must be nice.”

 “Yeah, I’m lucky,” I responded. “Let me tell you the secret of my luck.  First, I went to college for ten years. During that time, I started several businesses, and for the next [twenty five years] I worked really, really long hours.  Along the way, I mortgaged my house a couple of times for one of the business and I wrote [twelve] books.  If you apply that kind of effort to whatever you do, you too, can be just as lucky.”

 He laughed and said, “Okay! Okay! I get it!”

 Did he really get it? I don’t think so, because he hasn’t changed his behavior or started making different choices.

 For about twenty of my twenty five years of hard work, I didn’t feel very lucky or incredibly successful. It took time, effort, hard work, and decent choices before I felt a modicum of success. The problem is that many people want to go from point A to point Z and bypass all the challenges in between. They work hard, so they “deserve” the success they want.  And they tend to resent the success that other people have!!!

 Success is not an entitlement. It’s not a right or a claim that we should have. Yes, people have the right to pursue success, but that’s it. Success is most often earned, not handed over because you are entitled. If being successful were that easy, everyone would have the success he thinks he deserves. I think I was in my thirties before I truly understood and internalized that idea.

I’ve been trying to instill this wisdom in my nine-year-old son [now 17] by teaching him my “mantra of success.” [Years ago] I asked him, “Trey, what’s the secret to success?” He said, in a young boy’s slightly bored singsong tone: “The secret to success without hard work and good choices is still a secret, Dad. Can I go out and play now?”

OK, maybe nine was a little young to start the training. But maybe not.

————————–

True success is the result of hard work, period.  I love my business, I love helping people, and I’ve achieved a level of success doing both.  I am very grateful for my success and proud to have achieved it in a way that benefits others and helps them grow their businesses as well.  I am also very blessed to be able to open my home and a large part of my life to the people from my companies, and to give back to the world through the BNI-Misner Foundation

From time to time, I share comments about these things on my social media sites and true friends are most welcome to share in the positive conversation about these things.  If it troubles anyone to read about these things, however, I certainly won’t be offended if they unfriend me.

A True Givers Gain Achievement

In 1998, my wife Elisabeth and I co-founded the BNI-Misner Foundation, a nonprofit program supporting charitable causes. We created the foundation because we truly believe in the philosophy of Givers Gain, on which we founded BNI, our worldwide business networking organization. Simply put, Givers Gain means that if you help others, others will want to help you in return (think “what goes around comes around”).

Now, thanks largely to the generosity and kindness of BNI members and directors around the world who also believe firmly in the Givers Gain philosophy, as of May 2010, the BNI Foundation has contributed more than $1 million to charities around the world since its inception 12 years ago.

The foundation has a focus on children’s educational programs but allows donor-directed contributions as well. Looking back on the significant contributions the foundation has been able to make, I am continually inspired by the willingness of BNI members worldwide to give of themselves to help others. They made it possible to donate more than $100,000 to the 9/11 relief effort, $72,000 to tsunami relief, more than $25,000 for Haiti earthquake relief and tens of thousands of dollars for Hurricane Katrina relief. The foundation has built preschools in India, built preschools and a library and put tin roofs on schools in Indonesia, bought school uniforms for students in Kenya and stocked a library in South Africa with books.

Why am I telling you all of this?  I’m sharing these things with you because I truly believe that the more people genuinely give to others, the more successful they will be themselves. I fully attribute the worldwide success of BNI and its members (read some of their stories here) to this very concept. When you give to someone else because you want them to succeed, everybody wins, and you’re setting yourself up for success because the more good you do for others, the more good others want to do for you.

Starting this week, make a continuous effort to conduct your networking efforts, your business and your life with the philosophy that Givers Gain. Help people because you can and because you want to, and you’ll be amazed by the things you can achieve for yourself as a result.

To find out more about the BNI-Misner Charitable Foundation, click here.

Become a fan of the BNI-Misner Charitable Foundation on Facebook by clicking here.

‘Mastering the World of Selling’

When one of your business relationships passes you a referral, don’t assume that the prospect is ready to hear a presentation on your product or service. When an associate passes you a referral, say thanks . . . then start digging for more information.

You will want to determine whether what you offer is a fit for what the prospect needs.  Taking the time to do this upfront saves a lot of time and energy–for both you and the prospect. Exactly what does the prospect do? What products or services does he want from you? Will your offerings truly fulfill his needs? What is his behavioral style? What are his business goals? How large is his company?

Even with the referral in hand, don’t skip steps in your sales process. Before you approach the prospect, decide on a strategy based on whatever you can find out about him–the same as you would when preparing for any sale. Although the prospect was referred to you, all you’ve really received is an opportunity to approach the prospect with a favorable introduction. (This is not a bad thing–a single referral can open the door to a prospect it may have taken weeks, months or even years to connect with–if you even could at all.)  But whether the prospect becomes a client or not depends on how well you convince him that what you offer, at the price and under the conditions you offer it, will fulfill his needs.

It’s always a good idea to consistently hone your sales skills and strategies. If you need a good sales resource, look no further than Mastering the World of Selling.  It’s a brand-new book by Eric Taylor and David Riklan, and it contains one of the greatest collections of sales training wisdom for the 21st century that I’ve ever come across. It features sales strategies and advice from 89 of the world’s top experts including Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Jeffrey Gitomer, yours truly and more. 🙂  To find out more about Mastering the world of Selling, click here.

Do you have any dynamite sales wisdom that you’ve picked up over the years?  If so, I invite you to share it here by leaving a comment–there’s no such thing as too much useful information.  Thanks!

Census Survivor

logo_censusYour first thought after reading the title of this blog might have been . . . “Census Survivor,” what’s there to survive?”  Well, for one medium-sized suburban district office of the 1980 census, not that much . . . unless you count six dog bites, three car accidents and 11 attempted assaults (two at knife point, four at gunpoint, two with a baseball bat and the rest merely by hand), as well as a census worker who fell down a flight of steps, another who had a door slammed on her hand and, of course, the census worker who fell in a hole in someone’s front yard.

These were but a few of the challenges I ran into when I was the field operations supervisor of the 1980 Census in Covina, Calif.

The battlefield of suburbia was not the greatest problem faced by enumerators. Maintaining their sanity in the face of adversity was the greatest challenge.

We had water ballons dropped on enumerators at a local university, we did a set of interviews at a nudist camp (OK, in all honesty, the Census taker in that situation didn’t mind it too much), we had enumerators being propositioned–a lot–and we even got informaton about residents from dog tags!

My favorite tactic was used by a woman who would go to particularly unwilling individuals and sing Happy Birthday To You to the unsuspecting person, who would say, “It’s not my birthday,” to which the enumerator would say, “Really? When is your birthday?” The resident would blurt out the date and the enumerator got some basic information.  Generally, the resident thought that was so clever, he or she would then cooperate.

I’d like to say that I miss this experience but . . . I don’t. It was trial by fire. That said, I am very glad I went through it. It gave me an opportunity as a young man of only 24 to manage and supervise a crew of more than 300 people. I hired (and fired) more people in six months than I did in the next 20 years of my career. It was an experience I will never forget and always be grateful for . . .  mostly. 

The majority of the census for 2010 is over. However, there are probably a few diehards out there who haven’t cooperated. If someone shows up at your house and starts singing “Happy Birthday” and it’s not your birthday–cut her some slack. It’s probably a census taker.

Being ‘in Sync’ With Your Networking Partners

My wife, Beth, and I were in South Africa recently on safari at Camp Jabulani in the Kapama Reserve. Camp Jabulani has a beautiful suspension bridge between the main lodge and the guest suites. If you’ve ever walked over a suspension bridge, you know the feeling of the springiness under your feet as you walk. It was almost like wearing those Moon Boots I got for Christmas as a boy!

As we made our way over the suspension bridge, we noticed pretty quickly that when we did not walk in sync, the bridge’s flexing and bending jarred both of us as we tried to walk across. When we walked in sync, it was much easier to walk in a way that didn’t make us look like drunken sailors!

This started me thinking about networking relationships and the importance of being in sync with our referral and networking partners.

When I think about walking in sync with other businesspeople, I think of collaboration, cooperation, and maintaining a focus on how we can help each other (what I call Givers Gain). These three elements are critical for successful relationship marketing.

In order to build the kinds of mutually beneficial relationships you desire, it’s important to keep in mind what I call the proximity effect–networking is a contact sport. You must stay in contact with each other in order to benefit from a collaborative relationship. Profiting from a business relationship without staying in contact with one another is like getting a haircut over the phone—I have never seen that done!

Staying in touch can include holding one-on-one meetings with each other to learn more about each other’s business and referral needs, and to ask, “How can I help you?” Having a Givers Gain focus is the most effective way of supporting your referral partners.

We all need to make a commitment to maintain a focus on how we can help each other in business. This is a new thought pattern for most business owners. We aren’t schooled or trained in thinking “How can I help you?” when it comes to those with whom we are in a particular business community. More often than not, we think, “What can I get out of this relationship?” If you do business with a Givers Gain mentality, you will turn that thought pattern on its head.

Relationship networking is a good way to get business; it’s an even better way to do business. As you walk in this rhythm, you will find others getting in step with you, and everyone will do better business as a result.

My Philosophy About Competition

My philosophy about competition is best summed up by Henry Ford, who once said, “The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.”

In my business organization, BNI, members or directors often express concern about other competitive networking groups that are forming and bad-mouthing our company or attacking our program in some way. I tell my team that if they feel like someone is biting at our backsides, it’s because we’re out in front. Success in business is about constantly improving your product or service and making it better all the time. The process is a journey, not a destination. However, if you are constantly working to improve the system, improve the product, improve the culture and improve the team, you will also improve your position in the marketplace.

Almost 10 years ago I had a particularly aggressive competitor publicly state that he was going to bury our organization. Since then we’ve grown by almost 400 percent. I haven’t heard about his company in years. I’m not sure whether it’s still in business. Ford got it right. Keep making your business better, and you’ll have no need to fear your competitors–your business will be the one competitors fear the most.

Top Traits of a Good Networker

I’ve been sharing results from my Referral Institute study on networking. This week I’d like to share with you the findings that we have gotten regarding the “Traits of a Good Networker”.  Below is a list of the Top 5 Traits and then a graph of the Top 10.

  1. Enjoys Helping Others
  2. Is Trustworthy
  3. Works
  4. Follows Up
  5. Is a Good Listener

What do you think of these results and do you think there is something that was left off?

Here’s a handy key, organized by color, that makes it easier to discern each trait listed at the bottom of the graph from left to right:

Orange = Enjoys helping others–20.3%

Dark Blue = Is trustworthy–15.2%

Bright Purple = Works their network effectively–12.5%

Bright Orange = Follows up on referrals–10.9%

Dark Green = Is a good listener–10.7%

Brown = Has a positive attitude–9.9%

Light Blue = Is sincere–6.9%

Red = Other (Please Specify)–6.0%

Dark Purple = Networks always–4.5%

Bright Green = Is enthusiastic–2.1%

Gray = Other–1.1%

Have You Made Your Word-of-Mouth Campaign Checklist?

If you want to develop an effective word-of-mouth campaign, you’ll need to have an arsenal of credibility-enhancing materials at your disposal to make the most of every networking opportunity.

Below is a checklist of items you may already have available or wish to begin assembling, which can be used as collateral materials in developing your desired image. 

  • Testimonial letters from satisfied clients
  • Photos of yourself and your office facilities, equipment and products
  • Photos of your key customers
  • Photos of awards and certificates you and your staff have earned
  • Articles in which you’re mentioned
  • Articles you have published
  • A one-page, faxable flier
  • Audio or videos you have used
  • Any of your new-product announcements or press releases that have been published
  • Copies of other display advertisements that you’ve used (text from radio or TV spots)
  • Advertisements that you’ve run
  • A list of your memberships and affiliations
  • Product catalogs you use
  • Current brochures, circulars and data sheets
  • Question-and-answer sheets
  • Logos, trademarks, service marks, patterns, designs you’ve used
  • Your letterhead and stationery
  • Your annual report, capability statement and prospectus
  • Newsletters or news-type publications you use
  • Your motto, mission statement or service pledge
  • Client or customer proposals and bid sheets
  • Survey results by you or others
  • Presentation notes or slides and PowerPoint presentations
  • Marketing letters you wrote to clients
  • Generic materials developed by your associations
  • Articles on trends affecting your target market
  • Posters, banners and display materials used at trade shows

Be sure to store your networking materials in a bin or a set of shelves built to make it easy to retrieve frequently used documents.  This equipment greatly aids any company’s word-of-mouth campaign and ability to respond quickly when necessary.

Note:  This is not a complete list of items needed to market your business.  The items in this list are focused on enhancing your networking activities.

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